Jenny Anne Mannan

American Songstress

In Which It Takes 45 Minutes To Make A Pie

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Or, put another way, "Oh this old thing? I only wear it when I don't care how I look."

What is this quality of effortlessness that we seem to value so highly? For some reason, it seems that working hard on something isn't as valuable as as being good at something without trying. Hollywood is full of illusions of effortlessness - effortless beauty and fitness, effortless talent, effortless wealth. The only thing Hollywood will admit to working at is their 'craft', which, having seen more than my share of wooden performances, makes me wonder in many cases which craft they were working on and why so many film and television act-ors are so bad at working as well as acting.

But back to the point - effortlessness. My husband has this idea of effortless beauty (we're children of the 90's, you know), but unfortunately, since he's a guy, he doesn't understand that this idealized picture in his head of effortless beauty can really only be achieved by at least getting to Beauty Base Zero - which even Katniss Everdeen knows involves some tweezing, some moisturizing, some smoothing, some concealing, and probably some hair-coloring. And, as I get older, 'effortless beauty' also involves quite a bit of exercising and some strategic shopping. Unless, of course, he wants me to look like I'm actually still in the 90's, which he certainly doesn't and it's a good thing too because even my sacrificial love has its limits. And anyway I'm not altogether sure I can still grow my eyebrows that thick or find that particular shade of cranberry lipstick or that Eddie Bauer flannel. And by the way, the whole hair color issue really bugs me. My husband has the most incredible, thick, shiny, black hair - natural highlights and lowlights, glints red in the sun, gets blacker in the winter.

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I was a towheaded little kid whose natural haircolor as I've gotten older has grown into a non color, and I am unwilling to spend my adult life with mousy, nondescript hair just so that I can feel that false sense of superiority that apparently accompanies natural haircolor. The other day I told Caleb it's just mean when he says people shouldn't color their hair - it's like Heidi Klum saying people shouldn't be ugly.

But the illusion of effortlessness haunts us wherever we go. When I go into someone's spotlessly clean house, I don't automatically think of all the work that went into cleaning. I just think their house is cleaner than mine. When I attend one of my nieces or nephews birthday parties where I'm greeted by a smiling hostess and handcrafted desserts and decorations and thoughtfully selected party favors, I don't think about the week of planning and preparation that went into making that party a success. I just think my sisters-in-law are inherently better at party planning than I am.

A week ago I spent the morning dashing hither and thither around my house, trying to outsrip my kids' pace of domestic destruction and keep each room tidy long enough to actually enjoy a clean living space for a few minutes. My afternoon was booked full of lessons, and I wanted to pretend that order reigns supreme in my house long enough to make an impression on my students and help facilitate the learning process. I quickly realized my mistake, though, when my students' mother came in and assessed the level of clean-ness in my house and started stressing out that her kids would wreck it up. I'd taken for granted that she would realize that, like herself and all mothers of small children, I'd achieved this magic window through careful planning and a dither of activity and quite a bit more hollering than I'd like to admit. Yes, I wanted order, but I didn't want to perpetuate such a false idea of perfection that a fellow mother didn't feel comfortable bringing her kids over. I won't be able to maintain that standard for very long, and I'll be wildly misrepresenting myself in the meantime. How often do I work to create an illusion of effortlessness, only to put someone else under a burden? And if I'm working this hard at it, isn't it possible that everyone else is too?

So, I'd like to state the following: I spend at least 1/2 hour getting ready every single day. I wear mascara to the pool. It takes me 45 minutes to make a pie (not including baking time), and that's with the help of my KitchenAid. I get stressed out before every one of my kids' birthday parties, and usually dissolve into tears at least once. I color my hair. I work out, and I read articles about how to dress a post-baby body. I count calories and ratios. I often change outfits several times before leaving the house. I clean what my GrandFriend Jill calls the 'company path' every time I know someone is coming over, and I feel a slight pang of irritation when someone stops by and catches me in my jammies before I've had a chance to pick up the breakfast dishes. It isn't that I want credit for working so hard, it's just that I'd like to be free to say I am working hard. I'm coming in on Saturdays. I'm putting in overtime. I found it so refreshing when Salma Hayek talked frankly about how hard it was to lose the baby weight while maintaining a healthy nursing-friendly diet - much more endearing to ordinary women than Giselle Bundchen, who apparently breastfed her way to her prebaby runway body in 9 weeks while eating cheeseburgers.

Let's be nicer. Let's be honest. It takes 45 minutes to make a pie, and I wore this because I absolutely care how I look.

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Copyright 2016, Jenny Anne Mannan. All rights reserved.